Up to 400 migrants could be temporarily relocated to Wright College in Dunning

Michelle Gallardo Image
Saturday, May 20, 2023
Up to 400 migrants could be temporarily relocated to NW Side college
Up to 400 Chicago migrants could be temporarily relocated to Wright College in Dunning near Portage Park as police stations remain packed.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Beginning June 1, up to 400 migrants may be temporarily relocated to Wright College.

Located on the city's Northwest Side, the college is the latest target of a city desperately seeking out underutilized buildings where migrants, now sleeping on police stations all across Chicago, can be safely housed until more stable shelter space opens up.

"It's not right. It's not right to them, and it's not right to the police officers. So, right now, this is kind of a win-win. It's a win to get them off the floors of the police stations, and it's a win for the police officers to have them out of there," said 38th Ward Alderman Nick Sposato.

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Speaking with ABC7 at Wright College on Saturday, Sposato said as of Thursday, there were nearly 800 migrants sleeping in police stations. And, while the city is currently operating seven shelters and three "respite sites," they are simply not enough.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as long as there's ample amount of security here, I'm fine with it," Sposato said.

A similar initiative to convert an empty school building into a respite center in South Shore a few weeks ago was met with resistance, and even hostility, by some neighbors, who said their resources are stretched thin.

READ MORE | South Shore residents take legal action over migrant respite center plans amid Chicago crisis

Those who live near Wright College in Dunning and Portage Park, with their high immigrant populations are expected to be more receptive to the idea. A community meeting is planned for Tuesday to inform people about the details.

One couple lives directly across the street from the college.

"I know people sometimes get scared, thinking bad things are going to happen to their neighborhood from strangers coming in. I think it's the opposite," said Mayra Elisa Buitrón.

But, what happens after Aug. 1, when the school has to be turned back over to students and staff?

Sposato said the city needs to come up with alternate ideas to just traditional shelters.

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"We need to start an adoptive family program. I mean, there's families out here, empty nesters who might want to take a family in," Sposato said. "I think we could find many people in this community that would be willing to take some of these people in."

This, of course, all costs money -- more than the state and federal government have given. And so, on Wednesday, city council members will be asked to reallocate $51 million in surplus funds to the migrant crisis. That money will only be enough to get the city through June 30.